India’s n-submarine Arihant to be commissioned 2012 (Lead)

December 2nd, 2010 - 9:45 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Dec 2 (IANS) Taking a big leap forward in completing its nuclear triad, India’s indigenously developed nuclear-powered submarine INS Arihant will begin operational patrols by 2012, a top commander said Thursday.

India already has the capability to launch nuclear weapons from land and the air and INS Arihant will complete the triad.

“We have Arihant. It is there. We have a triad in place now, but we have to use it as effectively as possible. We will have Arihant going within two years. There is progress in the project, despite some hiccups,” Indian Navy chief Admiral Nirmal Verma said at the annual press conference ahead of Navy Day, to be observed Saturday.

The naval chief said when Arihant goes to sea, “it will be on deterrent patrols. The triad would be there when Arihant is commissioned. And you have a strategic weapon on the platform.”

The hiccups in the Arihant project were delays with regard to indigenous equipment that would be fitted on the submarine. “But I think we will be within time and commission the vessel by 2012,” Verma said.

The Arihant project was top secret until July last year, when the submarine was launched into the waters. Arihant is the first of three nuclear-powered submarines that India is building indigenously with Russian help.

It will carry a family of nuclear-tipped missiles, including the under-development Sagarika.

Asked about India’s preparedness in view of reports of Pakistan’s amassing nuclear weapons as revealed by whistleblower website WikiLeaks, Verma said: “We have a declared policy of no-first-use.

The naval chief admitted there was a downward trend in India’s submarine programme, but said the gap would be covered when the nation gets six highly advanced French Scorpene vessels being built at a Mumbai shipyard.

“There was a downward trend because of the gap that took place. For 17 years, we didn’t commission any indigenous submarine. That is why this gap took place,” Verma told said.

But he said the loopholes would be plugged when the Mazgaon Dock Ltd in Mumbai completes the ongoing Project-75 for six French Scorpene submarines that has already suffered almost a three-year delay.

“I think the Scorpene programme is on track. Yes there was some delay at some point of time. Now we are working to get Project-75, which will help us cover the gap,” he said.

The Indian Navy is facing a grave shortage of submarines. In another five-six years, more than half of its present fleet of 15 ageing diesel-electric submarines - 10 Russian Kilo-class, four German HDW and one Foxtrot - will become obsolete.

According to Project-75, the vessels were to roll out one per year from 2012 onwards. But that won’t happen and the navy now hopes that first submarine will sail in 2015.

Even the project cost escalated beyond the total Rs.20,000 crore as was initially agreed between the Indian defence ministry and the French company DCNS, which is fabricating the submarines.

India does not have nuclear submarines or SLBM capabilities at present, but it hopes to move forward by inducting the Akula-II class attack submarine K-152 Nerpa on a 10-year lease from Russia.

The 8,140-tonne submarine was to be delivered to the Indian Navy by December. But that is unlikely to happen now as the hand-over of the submarine got delayed and it would come only in 2011.

The naval chief refused to say anything about Nerpa.

India had taken “a whole lot of action” on strategic nuclear deterrence and construction of INS Arihant was testimony to that.

He said the government had also given it green signal for six more conventional second line of submarines to be constructed partly with MDL and the Visakhapatnam-based Hindustan Shipyard Ltd (HSL).

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